Monday, December 31, 2012

Moments of Change

As we prepare for the turning of the calendar, I'm thinking about moments when your course is undeniably changed because you are changed. We may want to forget it, deny it or rewrite it, but we can't. It's just there. It's now part of the fabric of who we are, and we must find a way to incorporate it into our beings. Life will not allow it to be ignored.

I wonder if some of the difficulty is not just pure anger at having such things delivered to the doorsteps of our psyches with no fanfare and no warning. No one wants to be the child of an alcoholic. No one wants to be an addict. No one wants to be "at risk." No one wants to be a rape survivor. No one wants to be a victim of child abuse. But people are all of those things.

The real tragedy is that these things are thrust upon us, often before we are even able to understand them. We are left holding the bag, carrying the burden. Forever. Regardless of how much we process, how "healthy" we are to the outside world, only we are living in our heads where almost everything is passed through the filter of, "is this right... what will happen if I do this or that... can I say/do this or will there be hell to pay?" We don't know any other way to live because this is all we've known since the moment we were changed, often through no decision we made other than to be alive and walking on the planet in that place at that time.

But, adversity also teaches us to be resilient, one of the greatest life skills a person can possess. It seems to be the determining factor in whether or not people are able to "move on" regardless of what happens. All of those things give us perspective, too. And they all play in role in making us who we are at this moment, in this place. The trick is how we move forward from this phase into the next.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

First Snow and Secret Santa

Tonight we had our first snow fall of the season. It has been warm enough the ground was just wet and provided wonderful reflections of Christmas lights and Rudolph's nose!

Earlier today I got to go play Secret Santa again, paying off layway at K-Mart for some folks. I just put a note out on Facebook and people contributed $750. I wrote a full accounting of the process on Facebook, but it was a really wonderful way to spend a little time during the holiday season.

I love the idea of people getting a call that their layaway has been paid off.

Our youngest contributor was 9, our oldest was 81. Including my own small donation, There were 22 people from 5 different states who shared. Some of these are folks I've never even met face to face, but know through social media. 

Today we purchased coats, shoes, jeans, sweaters, gloves and thermal underwear. They also bought a Barbie, some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, an Easy Bake Oven and a tricycle. There were many toys and many more practical things. Some of these accounts were delinquent, with only a few days left until Christmas. 

People were so generous that we went through the entire list K-Mart had pulled out for good potentials. We paid all of those with the exception of one that had nearly $300 left on it. Ruth and Evan who were helping us went and found some more by looking at what was set aside upstairs and then looking them up on the computer. I chipped in a few dollars extra and we ended up spending $761.68 total. We have to leave a penny on them so people stay in the system. I left cash to pay off those extra pennies. 

We paid off for 13 people. I had to do the last couple in cash because we set off a security warning on my debit card after 10 transactions in a short amount of time. :) One sneaked through because it didn't decline it until 12. But, I had anticipated that might be a problem, so I had come prepared with cash, too.

The final bonus of the day was when I called my credit union to make sure the card was still functional, they were very helpful, but puzzled by so many transactions in such a short time at the same place. Shen I explained the deal to the woman I was talking to she thanked me for being so generous. I assured her it wasn't me, but my friends who were so generous. She said that story had made her night. 

Friends give me a tremendous gift of letting me play Secret Santa. This is the second year we've done it. There's nothing like that to make a person feel festive!

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Twelve Thoughts About Common Sense and Gun Control

This isn't a post about gun control - it's a post about common sense.

1. If you have a 20 year old "disturbed" son living with you, it's not a good idea to have semi-automatic weapons lying around the house. It's a recipe for disaster in some shape, form or fashion. The thought process of having guns around when your child's school assigned a psychologist to him for his own protection is the antithesis of common sense. Far be it from me to speak ill of the dead, and I know nothing about what transpired in that household, but I know someone who needs psychiatric intervention for their own protection should not be living in a house with weapons.

2. As so often happens when someone owns a gun, they end up getting killed by their own weapon. We hear it all the time, but we never pay attention. Unfortunately, 26 other people also paid the price this time. Yeah, yeah, yeah - guns don't kill people, people kill people. We all know that. But people often kill people with guns, so stop saying that. It just makes you look foolish.

3. If people being armed really kept people from getting shot, we wouldn't have any of these situations, because we are a very armed society. But that is just fantasy. So stop saying that. It's not true and you don't look like a person who should be trusted with firearms when you can't be trusted with facts.

4. No one is trying to take your freaking guns away, so shut up about it. But we do need to figure out a way for people to exercise some basic common sense where guns are concerned. Unfortunately, that seems to need to be legislated. (Reference point number 1 if you're unsure why.)

5. We are going to have guns in the US. We can debate what that's about - tradition, long held beliefs, fear of some unknown - but it doesn't really matter. It's going to be. People are allowed to own guns. Some people like the history, the feel, the power, the whatever, of owning guns. And they don't have to justify that to you. They're allowed. So accept that as a given and lets try to have a reasonable discussion about exercising some common sense where guns are concerned.

6. Yes, people can use other things to kill people. Like cars. And bombs. And knives. But none of these things is as easy to lay your hands on or to use so indiscriminately to cause such tremendous harm in such a short amount of time as a gun is. There's a reason guns are the weapon of choice of mass murderers, drive-by shooters and your average run-of-the-mill criminal.

7. I know these things because I've been around guns most of my life, and I'm not a bad shot. In fact, I'm probably better than about 95% of the bozos I've seen on television in the last 48 hours talking about how they need to protect their guns. I know what responsible gun ownership looks like. It's not having semi-automatic weapons lying around the house in easy reach of someone who's "disturbed." It's rarely the responsible gun owners who are talking silly on the topic of guns and blathering on about the second amendment.

8. And speaking of the second amendment and the argument that's so often used - most people will never use their guns for self-defense because they will freeze up and pee themselves should the need ever arise. I hope it never does. And it's not likely to because we now live in a world where we have law enforcement as close as a phone call. The people who wrote the second amendment were far more concerned about self defense. You can ease up. You're not likely to need to defend yourself. Thank God. Because we're all in great danger if you start shooting under the pretense of defending yourself. Call the police instead. Please.

9. Instead of worrying about guns, you should be worried about the state of mental health care. Not all people with mental illness are violent - in fact it's a very tiny percentage, and no more significant of a percentage than in those not diagnosed as mentally ill. But I contend anyone who kills more than two dozen people on a rampage is mentally ill. It's something that might have been prevented if we gave any serious thought to mental health care. Yes, people have to be willing to have care. But if we had decent care available that didn't require the stupid hoops people have to jump through, people might be far more willing. I spent seven years trying to help people access mental health care and it is a maze you would not believe if you haven't ever tried to do it. We don't put the resources into mental health care we should.

10. If health care were as readily available as guns, we wouldn't be having this conversation. People could be off shooting furry animals with guns or telling those who are shooting how wrong they are, little children would be at home with their families down the hall, and I'd be writing about pretty tea sandwiches.

11. Don't be a jerk. You can keep your guns. No one is trying to take them away from you as long as you're demonstrating some basic common sense. (Again, please reference point number 1.) When you're rude and obnoxious - such as mentioning your cold, dead hands - you make all gun owners look unstable and like people who shouldn't have access to any weapons at all. So stop it.

12. Don't be a jerk. We are going to have guns in this country. When you go on and on about how we shouldn't have any guns you look like you've lost all ability to comprehend reality. You become the very person people think they might need a gun to protect themselves from. So stop it.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

I'm in the Divinity Making Business

I seem to have started a new business. It was kind of accidental, but I'm enjoying it. I'm in the divinity making business! There's a website and everything - That's when you know something is all official.

My mom was a championship divinity maker, and I eventually learned to make it as well. This year I entered some into the Kansas State Fair and won a ribbon.

The last few years I've been making it regularly for Greg's mom. Miss Joy sees no reason it shouldn't be enjoyed all year - no need to relegate it to Christmas. She has been encouraging me to start selling it. In fact, she pretty much told me - in her very nice way - that it was unkind of me to not make it available when I was able to make it, because so many people can't. This year I finally decided I would do as she suggested.

For reasons I can't fully explain, I really like to make it. Maybe it's because it's part chemistry, part cooking, and part art. The bonus is that it's not my favorite thing to eat so I'm not tempted by it.

It has been a real delight to share it with people. For people who love it, it's a serious treat. It feels very nice to be able to make people happy with a little confection!
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Being Engaged in Life

Kenny Rogers threw me this autographed 
tambourine from the stage during his 
2010 Kansas State Fair show.
A dear friend is encouraging me to write a book that is, in part, a guide for how to be engaged in life. Of course, each of us is just living our own life. We don't have the benefit of understanding what's going on in other people's heads and hearts.

But many people over the years have commented that I take a different approach to life than many people do. I make significant effort to create my life, including everything from visioning retreats to setting priorities. While we can't foresee what will happen, we can at least give some energy to what we'd like to have happen.

As we were discussing this idea over dinner one night I said, "Well, Kenny Rogers doesn't throw you an autographed tambourine from the stage if you're not engaged." With the sweep of a perfectly manicured nail, she motioned toward the paper I had out and said, "See, that's a chapter."

I'm mulling this over, and it will certainly be part of my visioning for the coming year. We'll see what develops. I'm flattered Martha believes I have anything of value to offer in this regard.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thursday, December 06, 2012

If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster

“If You Were Here,” by Jen Lancaster, chronicles how author Mia and her husband buy and renovate the home used in the movie, “Sixteen Candles.” She is infatuated with the house because of this, which leads her to overlook some minor details, such as the house is crumbling. The renovation journey includes neighbors you wouldn’t want to have, workmen and their less-than-calendar-based sense of time, and an ever-creeping deadline for her Amish-zombie-teen-romance. 

This is a work of fiction, and a departure from Lancaster’s usual biographical works. Regardless, it’s funny, as her writing always is.

Although I’ve never taken on a renovation project this large, I do live in an older home. While this is technically fiction, some of the situations may seem like startlingly accurate journalism to anyone who has attempted to bring a home back from the brink.

Just like in her auto-biographical books, Lancaster makes you simultaneously wonder how anyone could make this many poor decisions in such rapid succession, and wish you had the guts to do it yourself.

Everything Jen Lancaster writes makes me:
  1.  Laugh uproariously.
  2. Lament I’m not as funny as she is.
  3. Want to be part of her (somewhat dysfunctional) inner circle.
Aside from the teensy-weensy problem that she doesn’t know I exist, I’m not sure I could keep up with Jen and her friends. I don’t really drink wine. I am, however, an excellent designated driver. I like to believe this compensates for my lack of love for the fruits of the vine.

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